I got into collecting photography a few years ago, specifically vintage cased images. Really good cased images have started appreciating in value and are no longer the bargains that they used to be, but you can still pick up nice anonymous Daguerreotypes and tintypes for not too much money. An important thing to know is how to tell the difference – many people don’t know and will confuse the two, and try to sell (and price) the less valuable tintype as a Daguerreotype. The easiest way to tell the difference is in the appearance. A Daguerreotype will have a mirror finish and be hard to view directly without a black or other non-reflective color surface in front of it. Tintypes will weigh less and be clearly viewable from any angle. There are lots of other tips that can clue you in if you’re not sure, but that’s the obvious, easy distinction.
Three recent gum bichromate prints. Gum bichromate is perhaps the most labor-intensive photographic process because it involves building an image, one layer of pigment at a time. Most gum images need at least two layers, but often three or four are a minimum. Even working rapidly, you can only do about two layers a day. Gum is one of those processes that is all about the choices you make adding up to a finished product. All three images are whole-plate size images, 6.5 by 8.5 inches. Whole plate is the original photographic format, having been designed by Louis Daguerre for his first camera. Whole plate has a long and varied history, having come in and out of fashion repeatedly. It is enjoying a small modern-day renaissance not only for its historical echoes but for its aesthetically pleasing proportions and relative size.
This first image is a gum over Ziatype. Ziatype is a printing-out version of Palladium. A printing out process is one where the image is fully formed during exposure, and does not need a chemical developer to produce a final image. Ziatypes are really neat because they offer a very wide range of contrast, color and tonality depending on how you mix the chemistry. I do the Ziatype under the gum to start with a sharp base image with well-defined shadows and midtones. The gum builds on top to add physical texture and create color.
The second image is a pure gum image, with only two layers, black and blue. As you can see, it is possible to create a successful gum image with only two layers of pigment. I manipulated the layers to bring out the blue color and the detail in the hair.
The final image is a four layer gum bichromate. It is a pretty accurate representation of the model’s actual skin color, but it is made from a single black-and-white negative. I worked it over with a watercolor brush during the printing process to bring out the highlights on the model’s back.